To be honest, other than briefly hearing the word tossed into conversation here and there, I haven’t heard much about autoethnography, so it should come as no surprise when I saw and heard the word and thought: “what the heck is that?”. I’ve never been too fond of big words that usually sound a lot more simple or meaningless than they actually are, and autoethnography isn’t much different, except for the fact that it is a big word with a very simple, yet complex meaning depending on the individuals understanding of it. As Ellis et al. (2011) defines it, autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to both describe and analyse (systematically) personal experience in order to understand ones cultural experience. To me, in short, this means that it is a systematic method used to decipher ones personal cultural experience when exposed to different cultural attributes. As simple as that is, it can actually be harder to understand that I first thought.
My first thought once consuming all that was discussed in the Ellis et al. (2011) reading was that, whether consciously or subconsciously, we all undertake autoethnographic research (in relative terms) every time we are exposed to a cultural difference compared to that of our own. As discussed by Ellis et al. (2011) in section 5, a common critique of autoethnographic research and work is that it is not rigorous, analytical or theoretical enough and instead too aesthetic, emotional and therapeutic. Although in my understanding of the term, these traits as so often expressed in autoethnographic research, are still analytical and theoretical responses to a subject, regardless of how it is displayed or presented.
Below is a sort of stream-of-consciousness of my experience when viewing Gojira (1954), the first time I have viewed such a culturally different film to what I would usually view.
- My first thought was, “oh here we go, a black and white film all in Japanese, how am I going to understand this?” – this was a problem for me as I haven’t yet learnt to appreciate black and white film, maybe given the fact I was not exposed to much of it while growing up or taught to appreciate it.
- I had done some quick background research and having found out that the set was incredibly small so it actually made me appreciate the time and effort that it must have taken to built such a perfect piece.
- The ability to pick up when Special FX were being so obviously used made me laugh, but also appreciate the production effort of the film in order to provide entertainment to an audience.
- The Special FX are just an older-version of what we consider CGI nowadays and with the resources they would have had in 1954, they did a sufficient job.
- The incredible lack of dialogue and a sufficient score (background music) made it quite difficult to stay immersed within the film and quite often had to remind myself to actually watch and take note of what was happening.
- Having studied Japanese throughout high school, it came to no surprise to me when the use of weapons, especially those of mass destruction, was quite critical.
- The over-dramatic emotion displayed by characters came to me as no surprise, maybe this is because of my stereotypical view on most Asian films/media that I should probably forget about when viewing something of this matter.
- Eventually I grew incredibly bored given the slow-paced nature of the film and the lack of excitement that was displayed unless there was a fight scene.
Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095 accessed 12/8/16